Sausage gravy is deeply, deeply disreputable food. In its typical presentation, slopped across biscuits in some charmingly run-down roadside diner with Patsy Cline playing on the jukebox, it is, in essence, flour on flour, dressed up as actual sustenance by the inclusion of token quantities of butter and pork—which, you may have noticed, are not exactly kale and lima beans—and not-at-all-token quantities of salt and milkfat, which are also not kale and lima beans.
When the best that can be said of a foodstuff's nutritional virtue is that, hey, rendered pork fat—one of its main ingredients—has, like, what, amino acids or some shit, probably, or maybe riboflavin, I ain't no dietitian, get offa my case, I can eat what I want, maybe I don't want to live to see 55, didja ever consider that, we can probably all agree that it ought not to be a staple food of the non-suicidal. So no, don't, like, add it to your regular breakfast rotation, or at least be aware that now that I have advised you against doing that, that pretty much clears up my liability in this matter.
But, sure: Make sausage gravy this one time, and then maybe whip it up once or twice a year for a big Sunday breakfast or something, because damn, it's really good. Rich and salty and good. And cheap! It's mostly flour and low-grade meat products, after all, and while this certainly is bad news for your person, it's good news for your wallet. You can have sausage gravy, and then put the leftover money you otherwise would have spent on a breakfast that contained actual life-sustaining nutriment into, say, a brand-new treadmill. And/or a coronary angiogram. Worst-case scenario, maybe a slightly fancier tombstone.
First, though, let's make some sausage gravy.
To begin, acquire sausage. A pound of it should do. Decide for yourself what type of sausage you'd like to use: The stuff labeled "breakfast sausage" is perfectly fine, and so is Italian, provided it's the hot variety, though note also that Mexican chorizo is outrageously good in sausage gravy. The only requirements are that your sausage must be uncooked and uncased—if you can only find the cased stuff, you'll need to remove the casing with a knife. Go ahead and do that. Man, is it gross.
Next, set your sausage aside for a bit and preheat your oven to 425 degrees, because you are making your own goddamn biscuits. Yes, you are.
Listen. Here is the thing. There's a reason why the biscuit exists, and why people eat it so often, and that reason is that the biscuit is delicious and perfect and oh man, the biscuit. But there is also a subsidiary reason why the biscuit exists and is so popular, and that reason is that, as bready-type things go, the biscuit is absurdly easy to make, and make well, which is to say well enough to cause your lips to curl over your teeth and attempt to follow the biscuit down your throat, just to be near it. And then you have to pull your lips back out of your mouth with your fingers and tape them to your face, which maybe is not exactly the sexiest look ever, but that's OK, because your stomach is full of homemade biscuits, and that is for damn sure a hell of a lot more important than whether or not they will let you board "the bus," if that even is its real name.
And, since the biscuit is so easy to make (really: You kinda just mix a bunch of stuff in a bowl, fold it over a few times on your counter, and then cook it), it's an easy thing to remove from the list of foodstuffs you must depend upon The Faceless, Merciless All-Owning Mega-Corporation to provide for you. Really. You can make your own biscuits. And then you can shake them, defiantly, at the entrance of an Apple Store, for some reason.
So. Make biscuit dough. There are many ways to make biscuit dough; you practiced one of them back when you made peach cobbler (unless of course you heretofore failed to make peach cobbler, in which case go to hell), and that's the basic formulation you'll deploy here, too. In a bowl, whisk together two cups of flour, a tablespoon of baking powder, a pinch of sugar, and two much heartier pinches of salt; cut a cold stick of unsalted butter into small chunks and kinda pinch and press and knead these into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and lumpy, but doesn't contain any wads of butter larger than, say, a pearl; gently stir in, oh, maybe a bit less than a cup of warm (not hot) water or milk (but really: milk) until the contents of the bowl just hang together as a dough. There. A dough.
And now, transform your dough into biscuits. Sprinkle some flour on the countertop (yes, this will be messy; no, you will not be able to summon the will to clean it before 2047; yes, the end result will be worth it) and dump your dough onto it. With your hands, press and pat and flatten this big dough heap until it's about as thick as your index finger, fold it in half, and pat and press it down again until it's about as thick as your thumb. Grab a round dough-cutter (Ha! Psych. You will never possess one of these. Open, empty, and clean out that ancient can of chicken-and-rice soup that has somehow followed your family from residence to residence through the past three generations, waiting for this moment, the moment of its usefulness, quivering imperceptibly in anticipation of sweet, merciful annihilation each time you opened the pantry door, and then sobbing to itself when you yet again reached past it for the marshmallows, those trollops, damn them, but not this time, this time it is I, Chicken-And-Rice, who shall return triumphantly to The Void) and cut out as many whole disks as you can; ball up and pat down the remainder and cut disks out of that, too, then stash whatever's left in, um, your mouth, of course, and quickly, while no one is looking.
Spread these dough-disks out on a big, flat cookie sheet with some parchment paper (or butter, or cooking spray, or whatever, no not socks) on it, stick the thing in your preheated oven, and bake your biscuits. This one time, and only this one time, that is not a euphemism for anything. They'll need about 15 minutes. This will give you plenty of time to make sausage gravy. This is awfully easy.
Heat up a skillet or saucier pan (stainless steel is best, here, but whatever you've got will do just fine, unless it is an upturned fedora, in which case why do you even own a fedora, it makes you look like a jerk) and brown your pound of uncased sausage over, say, medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula as it cooks, until it's thoroughly browned and there aren't too many huge crumbles in there. Once that's done, you'll need to move the browned sausage from the pan to a bowl without losing the wonderful liquid pork fat that rendered out of it as it cooked. If you have a slotted spoon for this, that's ideal, since it'll leave that fat right there in the pan; if you don't have a slotted spoon, you can pour the contents of the pan through a colander suspended above a big bowl, so the sausage gets caught in the colander and the fat runs through into the bowl, and then dump the fat back into the pan. In any case, set the sausage aside for a minute, because you're gonna work with the fat.
So you've got a big pan full of liquid pork fat, and isn't that just what you've always wanted. Keep the heat under it at around medium, and whisk maybe a quarter of a cup of flour into the fat. Whisk and whisk, until the pork fat is fully absorbed into the flour and you have a smooth, consistent, lump-free flour-and-pork-fat paste the very sight of which would cause your primary healthcare provider to bury a large ax directly into your chest.
What you've done here, in essence, is to make a pork-fat roux, the thickening agent used in the making of several traditional French sauces. In fact, what you'll be doing next is turning this pork-fat roux into something like a quick pork-fat Béchamel sauce, and maybe—once you retrieve your computer from the canyon into which you reflexively pitched it at the sight of French cooking terminology—this will make you feel somewhat better about using flour to make biscuits and then using flour to make the gravy that will go atop them, if your discomfort at preparing such extravagantly unhealthful hobo-chow can be assuaged somewhat by associating it with fancy cuisine-words, or if your general sense of bonhomie (oh God, more French) can be buoyed by a reminder that we're all, all of us, sausage-gravy-eating vagrants and pretentious French chefs alike, like, the same on the inside, man, insofar as we all apparently contain both the desire to consume flour suspended in liquefied fat, and also, much of the time, large quantities of flour suspended in liquefied fat.
So your fat has flour in it and is a smooth, good-smelling paste. Whisking all the while, pour two cups of whole milk into the pan. Whisk and whisk and whisk. Gradually, the flour in the pan will absorb this milk, and the mixture will turn thick and bubbly, until it is very thick and bubbly, and you go, "Oh, that's gravy." Now it is gravy. Stir that crumbled, cooked sausage into the gravy, along with a very large amount of freshly ground black pepper, and (tasting as you go) however much salt is required to make it good and salty. Hey, now: That there is some goddamn sausage gravy. What are you gonna do with it? You are gonna by-God eat it.
By now the biscuits should be done, or close to it. Get the biscuits out of the oven, and let them sit and cool for a minute or two while you try not to dive headlong into the sausage gravy. Then it will be time to cram all of this stuff into yourself.
Split one or two biscuits onto a plate and scoop a heaping, messy, ludicrous portion of sausage gravy atop them. You are of course free to stop there and proceed to the eating portion of the affair, but!—the right thing to do, the just thing, the humane thing, is to quickly prepare two or three over-easy fried eggs, and place these atop the sausage gravy, so that when you puncture their yolks with a fork (or, should you wish to perish as soon as possible, some bacon), the runny yellow goodness will ooze down and mingle with the sausage gravy and align the planets and bring about an Age Of Peace that will last only as long as it takes you to wolf this rich, hearty, heavy, salty, impossibly satisfying meal down with glazed, slavering, primal intensity, and drift promptly into a deep and blissful coma.
Enjoy the rest. Oh man, are you gonna have to do a lotta friggin' jumping jacks when you wake up.
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Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. Peevishly correct his foolishness on Twitter @albertburneko, or send him your creepy longform hate-missives at email@example.com. You can find lots more Foodspin at foodspin.deadspin.com.
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